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Why Choose a 223 Ackley Improved

By Bill Craig

As great as the standard .223 is you may ask “why change it”? There are several versions of .223 Improved – I think the best of the bunch is the Ackley version which sports a 40 degree blown out shoulder. This is accomplished by firing standard .223 ammo in the improved chamber. Upon firing case expansion fully fills the improved chamber. The end result is a case with a 40 degree shoulder with a minimum tampered case body. This results in a whopping 10%  increase powder capacity which in itself  is reason enough for the improved chamber. This increase in powder capacity can add as much 200 FPS! The benefits of this are obvious!

The second major advantage of the 40 degree shoulder means that there is less brass flow in to the neck and therefore less case trimming. My personal rifle in this caliber is a CZ-527 with a custom 23 inch Bergara barrel and Boyd’s custom fit stock.The trigger guard and floor plate have been reworked and fitted with a single shot adapter from James Calhoon, Havre, MT. This rifle is topped with a Weaver Classic 6X24 scope. I have had this rifle for 9 years and have not yet had to trim a case. Some cases have been fired in excess of 10 times.

The third advantage of the improved version is that the case holds to the chamber walls when firing which reduces bolt thrust and locking lug setback. For high volume shooters the result is greater action life.

During the years that I have owned this rifle I have used several combinations of powders and bullets. Most everything I tried shot under 1/2 inch at 100 yards. For varmint hunting bullet selection has been limited to 40 and 50 grain bullets. Although, the 50 grain bullets were very accurate I now shoot only the 40 grain bullets. Most of this use was for Prairie Dog shooting and for this the 40 grain bullet proved superior.

Two years ago I tried Accurate 2200 powder and I have never changed. For a fire-form load 26.5 grains and either the 40 grain Varmageddon or the 40 Nosler B.T. shoots 3 shot groups from .143 to .241 respectively. Velocity is between 3800 and 3900 FPS. It just doesn’t get much better! AT 28 grains is a 4000 FPS+. Keep in mind that these results are obtained by using 20-30% less powder than is used in the great .22-250.

Die sets for the .223 Ackley are available from Redding. You can choose either the regular set with full length, neck dies and a bullet seater or the excellent bushing die set. Lee offers these dies on special runs but not always available. L.E. Wilson offers them in their hand die sets.

In a recent conversation the people at Western Powders, I inquired about the suitability of Accurate 2200 powder in the .221F.B. Their research data showed a load of 18.5 grains developing 3,050 F.P.S. and 20.5 grains at 3,350 F.P.S. I loaded 6 rounds at 19.5 grains and 6 rounds at 20.3 grains and proceeded to fire 4 three shot groups at 100 yards using the 40 grain Varmageddon Tipped and the Varmageddon H.P. At 19.5 grains groups were .448 and .491. With the 20.3 grains groups were .352 and .551. “Not real bad”!! I have always professed that every rifle has a “magic powder”. With Accurate 2200 that makes 3 rifles that qualify (.223 AI – .221FB – 17Hornady Hornet). I feel this is outstanding.

Of all the different calibers I have owned the .223 Ackley is my all-time favorite. Being primarily a Varmint hunter I have found the Ackley Improved to be perfect. I have also shot several deer with this rifle. By no means am I implying that it is ideal for deer; but with the right load and good shot selection it is deadly. I have never lost a deer shooting a 65 grain Sierra Game King or 60 grain Nossler Partition. Most of the deer were shot at 100-150 yards.

If you are searching for a great caliber I feel you can’t go wrong by selecting the .223 Ackley Improved using 2200 Western Powder.